Archive for October, 2012


Perceptions of Africa in school – 13 days to go and we’re live

Our project on perceptions of Africa has now almost concluded, as we’re in the final stages of preparing our teaching resource, a website which will go live on 12 November. In the meantime, if you can’t bear the wait, you can see my note on the London School of Economics ‘Impact of Social Sciences’ blog. It’s entitled “Bringing research to a wider audience, and having an impact on the young, is easier when there is a meeting of the minds”.


Research austerity

The summit of the EU heads of states on 22-23 November will be a decisive step in determining the EU research budget for the next seven years. At a time when Brussels is calling for the 27-member bloc to slash public spending, a number of national capitals are responding that if they need to tighten their belts, the EU needs to as well. The proposed €90 billion in funding for the union’s flagship seven-year research programme, Horizon 2020, will be one of the items considered at the summit.

Keen readers will recall my post dealing with the ERC position paper in July 2011:

The paper ends with the remark that “while the ERC is currently covering a much wider area of frontier research than the US National Science Foundation (NSF), its current annual budget is less than half of the funds dispersed towards research grants by the latter in 2010, representing a small percentage of EU annual public research expenditure.” The report thus argues for a doubling of the ERC’s annual budget, to a level of around €4bn per year. of course, I write this on the day that the eurozone’s big banks meet to refine their plans for a second bailout of Greece, so maybe things are not looking too likely.

Cambridge Classicist Mary Beard notes that she has “moved from a degree of uncertainty about this Euro Research Enterprise to being a huge supporter of it. (Thank God for the EU whose reaction the recession is to plough money into research, not take money away from it.)”

Now then is the time when the scientific community should act together and make our case to protect research funding, including that of the European Research Council (ERC), from cuts. An open letter signed by European Nobel Laureates has been published today this week in Nature, Le Monde and other European media.

An online petition has been launched to caution against cuts to the  2014–2020 EU research budget.

The Young Academy of Europe, founded by ERC Starting Grants holders to represent the “next generation of research leaders in Europe”, pointed out when the petition was launched two days ago that “the largest petition for a scientific cause in Europe in the past was signed by less than 30 000 scientists – compared to the hundreds of thousands of signatures on petitions from other groups of society”.

Cheeringly, 26 493 people have signed just in the last 24 hours…  55 689 have signed in total, and a quick scan shows that within the UK it is Cambridge, Edinburgh, London, Manchester, Norwich and Oxford who are leading the movement.


We need an extra hand

We’re looking for an experienced field archaeologist to join the team in January and February 2013. This is an excellent opportunity to work with an international, friendly team on an interesting site! We are looking for someone able to supervise an excavation unit and to make decisions concerning the excavation strategy – so they need to have a high level of competency in archaeological recording (taking levels, developing detailed fieldwork record sheets, drawing plans etc). It is expected that field notes will be of a good enough standard they can be easily adapted for publication. We are seeking someone with experience of digging in arid (ideally, Sahelian) environments and urban settlements. And whoever takes up this role must be happy to deal with fairly basic living conditions!

The project can cover all costs associated with the research, including airfare and other travel, subsistence costs while in Bénin, and visa/vaccinations prior to travel.

If you are interested, then please get in touch by posting a comment here. We will stop looking on 16 November.


2nd steering meeting

Our second steering meeting was last week – this is the chance for all the Europe-based members of the team to get together. The idea was to take stock of what work we have done already, in the 22 months we have been running, and what work still needs to be done in line with the initial proposals made to the ERC. The project still has 28 months to run, and 3 field seasons.

It was hard work and very fun. We heard presentations by everyone – the core team members plus three new welcome additions, Victor B from Université Libre de Bruxelles who is looking at land use and settlement development in a historical perspective, Caroline R-B from Toulouse whow will handle the description and analysis of the archaeometallurgical remains within our area, and Nadia K, the Crossroads PhD student, who will develop a more regional perspective for the archaeological work using GIS, potentially combined with test pitting.

Among the things we talked about were soumbala, horses, folded strip roulettes, thermonatrite, the Wangara, test pits, magnetite, clan names, settlement morphology, Kirikongo, latrines, lantana, crushed clay, open spaces, Sorotomo, fish, phosphorus, furnaces, and Bogo-Bogo.  Among many other things.

Some parts of this now need to pulled together for the African Archaeology Research Day in Southampton in early November and for the West African Archaeological Association in Abidjan in late November. Stay tuned.


second steering meeting

We are getting ready to host at UEA in the next few days all the Europe-based members of the Crossroads team and various top-notch ‘consultants’. It will be a chance to see how far we’ve got, 22 months into the project – and to plan where to go next. Looking forward to it.

About this blog

This blog has been set up to chart the activities and research findings of two projects led by Anne Haour, an archaeologist from the Sainsbury Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, United Kingdom.

The first project, called Crossroads, brings together a team of archaeologists, historians and anthropologists studying the Niger Valley where it borders Niger and Bénin (West Africa). We are hoping to shed more light on the people that inhabited the area in the past 1500 years and to understand how population movements and craft techniques shaped the area's past.

The second project, called Cowries, examines the money cowrie, a shell which served as currency, ritual object and ornament across the world for millennia, and in medieval times most especially in the Maldive Islands of the Indian Ocean and the Sahelian regions of West Africa. We hope to understand how this shell was sourced and used in those two areas.

These investigations are funded by the European Research Council as part of the Starting Independent Researcher Programme (Seventh Framework Programme – FP7) and by the Leverhulme Trust as a Research Project Grant. The opinions posted here are however Anne Haour's own!

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October 2012